Are You Willing to Receive Help?

Many of you who have journeyed with me and my blog for a number of years (10 in 2017!) know that my husband was in the Army and did a tour in Afghanistan. That was a pivotal time in our life and in the life of our family. We grew and changed, we were stretched and challenged, we were poured out and built up and then poured out and built up again.

I’ve been thinking through the lessons God began to teach me in that time of life. One such lesson that I am still learning even today is something I wrestled within myself and something I think we all wrestle with in varying forms and at different stages of our lives:

I wrestled with the idea that I was unwilling to ask for or receive help.

Getting The Message Loud and Clear
I very clearly remember the day that I realized how much help I needed and how I had blocked others from helping me. I was hastily packing up my family (my then 4-year old and 9-month old baby) alone for a weekend trip to my friend’s cabin on an island in the Puget Sound. If it sounds lovely, trust me, it is and was. But the process of a single Mom (my husband was deployed) trying to pack and load a car for a weekend like that -all the baby gear and the food-with one little person running around excitedly asking a million questions and the baby crying and screaming at you; that part I vividly remember sucking royally.

I was pretty harried to say the least. And even though I had been kindly invited to this weekend, I remember not wanting to go because I KNEW how hard it would be to load it all up, unload it, reload it and then again unload it all.by.myself. (Remember the screaming child?)

I hastily grabbed whatever I could, even though I kept asking myself “why did you agree to this” the whole time. I finally got the genius idea to PUT THE CHILDREN IN THEIR CARSEATS so that I could get the last few things out of the house without the stress of crying and excited children. While I did, I grabbed a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) magazine to read. I had been saving it for some quiet time and was so excited to delve into it.

The ferry left at a certain time and I HAD to get in line early so that I could make it on. If you’ve ever depended on a ferry, you get this. So I drove a bit fast, I got in line and then I waited. (“Hurry up and wait” is an Army way of life, right fellow Army wives?) It was about one hour of waiting between all the stops at other islands along the way. I knew I had the time, the boys were occupied, so I broke out my magazine. I then proceeded to cry my brains out as article after article dealt directly with the false glamour of The Super Mom mentality.

You know that woman who managed everything perfectly and walked with a sweet halo around her head? I had been trying so hard to just hold it alllll together in those 12 months. I felt responsible for everyone else’s emotions. In a moment, I realized I had completely ignored my own emotions and I had taken on way too much. I also realized that I had virtually stopped doing things so that I didn’t have to deal with push-back from my kids. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want to try anything. Going out? There was no such thing. I wouldn’t even try to find someone to watch my children. It was too much work.

How it Develops
Eventually, my little family made it to the island and I enjoyed a lovely weekend with my friends. For once, I began to let go. I tried accepting the help I was offered.  I accepted my friend’s help when he offered to help me unload the car. I accepted the help of one friend so I could go for a walk, alone, with the other. I realized that I wasn’t a mooch. I wasn’t being lazy. I wasn’t admitting defeat even. I was just recognizing that I had limitations. I was finally willing to be vulnerable. Just because I *could* do it myself, didn’t mean I *had* to do it by myself.

I don’t think that any of us would say we think we are super men or women. Most of us would say that we just do the best we can.

A willingness to be vulnerable and to trust the company of others with that vulnerability…that is something else.

That is what I realized that weekend I had not been doing.

This refusal to allow others to help, to receive, it comes on in quite small and inconspicuous ways. It’s not like any of us intend to be super people. The grocery bagger asks, “would you like help out?” and you decline. Someone goes to grab the door for you as you try to push the stroller into the door and hold it all by yourself and you begrudgingly accept only because that person wouldn’t back down. Your friend offers to help you with a project and you say “oh I’ll be ok”. You pile things you want to do on your plate even though you know you don’t have the time to do them well. You are on a fast trek to one mile wide and one inch deep.

Many times we don’t ask for help because we hate how someone else will help us. A woman I go to church with recounts the time she was pregnant with her high risk baby (who ended up being born very prematurely) and on bed rest. It drove her crazy that her in-laws never washed the vegetables/fruits in vinegar water..something she was passionate about-before giving them to her children. It infuriated her! But she knew she NEEDED their help, even if they were doing it ALL WRONG.

Why it’s a Challenge/Why you should
It’s pretty hard to admit that you are a vulnerable person who is in need. It means you have to TRUST someone else with something fragile in you-weakness, maybe even frailty. It can be hard to ask for help because in admitting you are in need, you are entrusting yourself to someone else. You are taking a risk.

Will that person think I’m just lazy or irresponsible?

Will I come across as “needy” and then people will stop offering any help at all?

What if I annoy them?

What if by helping me someone else is put out?

These are some of the things that run through our mind when we find ourselves in need. But the reality of the situation is that many times, accepting the help of a friend is a tremendous blessing both to them and to us!

Other times, we don’t even realize we are in need of help. Or we do need help, but we don’t know what help looks like.

How to Ask/Who to Ask
I remember talking recently with a friend about this time in my life when my husband was in the Army. She said to me that I never acted like anything was wrong or like anything we were going through was tough. She said she never would have guessed that it was a trying time for us or that there was a need. Part of me was happy to hear this and part of me was tremendously sad.

The happy part of me thought, “great! I didn’t want to be a Debby downer!” and the other part of me thought, “how sad that I was dishonest about how hard that time was for me”. I wasn’t willing to trust others with what was happening to me.

How to Give
An old mentor of mine once told me never to deny another person the opportunity to give to you. For some, it is a gift that they possess within their souls to give to others. It is a generosity that naturally flows out of them and to deny them a chance to give is to deny them something that brings them great joy.

What does that look like in daily life? What if the next time someone offers a simple help or assistance, you challenge your heart to say “yes”. It’s a risk…

Mind your “yes”. Is the commitment you are saying yes to going to cause you to do something else poorly? What will suffer as a result of what you have said yes to? As I work collaboratively with other teams and groups of people, my eye is attuned to the one in the group who says “no”. It exemplifies to me that they have good boundaries and that when they DO say yes to me sometime in the future, I can trust them with what they have committed to doing.

Many of us are in a position to help on a daily basis. Helping another person without judging them when they confess their need, that’s how trust is built in relationships. Friendship is worth the risk! Allowing another person to help you, being willing to receive help is how to show them that you are trustworthy too.

 

How I Got To A Healthier Me

I am a child of the ’80s. Growing up my family ate: hamburger helper, chef boyardee, beenie weenies, tuna noodle casserole, vienna sausages, mac n cheese, ramen noodles, banquet tv dinners, spaghetti o’s, captain crunch, fruity pebbles, count chocula etc. cereals. Food came with some sort of sauce or from a box, basically. Turkey loaf…meat loaf, condensed cream of chicken/mushroom/golden mushroom/cheese/celery/tomato soup plus some rice of some sort to soak it up a bit. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with CREAM gravy. In fact, my MOST favorite meal was mashed potatoes with cream gravy, chicken fried steak (also with cream gravy-lots o’ pepper) and some fried okra or green beans.

That my friends, was a dream come true for me. My paternal-Grandmother would make GIGANTIC Sunday post-church meals for the family and they usually looked like fried chicken, baked beans, mac n cheese, fried okra or fried green tomatoes and maybe some pudding or some cottage cheese with pineapple slices/apricot halves over the top. Oh! And don’t forget the maraschino cherry!

I remember LOVING food and being so hungry when I was a kid. I was always bugging my Mom about what I could eat next. As a kid getting a snack after school, one of my most favorite things to eat was a slice of white bread with butter and a slice of cheese warmed up in the microwave just a scooch, until it was nice and gooey.

I wrestled with my weight beginning around the time I turned 11. Before that, I had always been a very thin child. From then on and especially into junior high and high school, I was a fat chick. I was more ahem “developed” than the majority of the girls I was classmates with and I was reminded and teased about it regularly. Sometime in high school, things began to smooth out a little bit. I think I was a junior in high school. I am not sure if I got taller, busier or what. I think it was about the time that all the other girls in the lunch room were eating at the salad bar for lunch.

However, I still had a picture of what I looked like in my head. Now, I LOVED food (and still do!) but I just couldn’t seem to figure things out back then. The best I could do was force myself to eat less. It worked for a while but was still a challenge for me.

I was never on any sports leagues. I never exercised unless my friends asked me to do it with them on a video or a class of some sort. I was ungraceful, uncoordinated and just felt fat and clumsy. So any attempt at exercise just made me cringe. I mean, people, my body jiggled all over! EW! I would get out of breath easily and I was not strong.

Fast forward to my early twenties. I got a bit older,snagged a guy (who thought I was beautiful??) and got married.

Before the wedding I was the “lowest” I’d ever weighed as an adult. But still, it was just reasonable and by the charts I was still considered “overweight”. After the wedding, we both ballooned up pretty quick. We were happy, we had time, we ate out often and we both loved to eat! I loved to cook but I didn’t really know how nor did I have a recipe repertoire other than what my own Mom had made for us growing up. (Which I liked and frankly, EVERYONE I knew grew up that way and ate that way. It was not some sick thing. That was totally normal!)

I think it was some time after my first child that I became truly miserable. We got one of those church directory pictures taken and I just wanted to die over how fat I was! But still, I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I didn’t want to eat salad the rest of my life! I am not a rabbit!

Eventually we moved out to the west coast, to Washington State. I met my best friend, Crystal. We had children the same age and we were both frustrated with our weight (though she had just had 1/2 of her thyroid removed!). She began a dramatic weight loss journey (losing over 100 lbs!) and just through doing life together and hearing/seeing/experiencing what she was doing that was right, I decided I wanted to do that too and I tried to learn as much as I could from her experience.

I began slowly to change how I ate. I figured out that I needed to lay off the carbs, eat more veggies and fruits and I desperately needed to move my body. In that time I began to train for a number of races and started running. Things finally started to come together for me. I started getting it. And what a perfect place in the country to get it! Every where I looked fresh veggies and fruits were at my disposal.

I began using Spark People to try to track my calories and my exercise. I began experimenting with “healthy swaps” and trying to lower the calories in some of my favorite recipes. I practiced portion control. <gasp!>

My biggest struggle has always been that if you tell me I CAN’T have something, then that’s when I want it and I’ll obsess over it until I just give in. However, I figured out that I could still eat fun and exciting things if I worked for them. I learned the difference between quality calories vs empty calories. I learned to say no and to tell myself that this isn’t the last good meal I will eat on Earth. (I needed a reminder that I would eat again soon!)

Eventually I got pregnant again and I was determined to have a more healthy pregnancy than my first. I succeeded in that endeavor and even managed a successful VBAC as a result. I did better at shedding the lbs post baby too because I gained less in my pregnancy and I knew what to do afterwards to help shed the weight. I’m not saying it was easy! I’m just saying that for the first time, I knew what to do!

My progress continued on and after we moved back to the mid-west, I even had a third baby. It was my best pregnancy to date! I gained a healthy amount of weight and lost it in a decent amount of time. Again, it was NOT easy, but I knew what to do.

My weight is still something I am working on, however it’s more of an overall desire to be healthy and honor God with this body than it is an opportunity to be some thin and lovely woman (though that is a nice thing too). I want to be comfortable in my own skin and with what my body is capable of achieving. I want to be strong!

I now use My Fitness Pal to help me with my daily calorie intake. I also use Map My Run to help me track my fitness. The show The Biggest Loser has helped me so much actually to be inspired and encouraged to not just change how I eat, like some fad diet, but to change my whole life for the better. I’ve learned what a danger Type 2 Diabetes is and all the horrific things that come with the disease.

I’ve learned SO MUCH about food too. My cooking has radically changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love food and I love to eat. I love to prepare it and think creatively about it also – and that has revolutionized my life. Once I began to realize how much I was capable of doing with the food we eat in our family, it became a fun game and a competition against myself! I’m always trying to improve and educate myself and my family.

So today, my fitness goals look like this:

-move more. Go outside as much as possible! (this is big for me because I love to be outside)

-eat a plant-based diet as much as you possibly can. think creatively about how to get veggies and fruit at breakfast and at lunch!

-exchange unhealthy fats for healthy fats and go high protein

-look for ways to cut out processed and refined sugars

-drink more water than you drank yesterday, every day

I still eat chocolate, cupcakes, waffles and pancakes, cake and pie. I still go over my calorie allotment some days. I still eat out! But if my fitness goals are in the forefront of my mind, then I still see all the benefits.

I recently cleaned out my closet and got rid of so many clothes that don’t fit me. I actually tried stuff on so that I could SEE the difference. Wow. I was astonished. I am in single digit sized pants today. I NEVER thought I’d get there. It hasn’t been fast. It hasn’t been dramatic. But I’m happy with both the journey and where I know my goals are going to take me.

This is one of those journeys that only leads to good things! There are not very many journeys like that in this life. 🙂